As has been the case not unfrequently in history, from the times of Tarquinius Priscus to those of Charles II., the death was concealed until everything had been prepared for the production of a successor. The palace was carefully watched; no one was even admitted into it except Agrippina’s most trusty partisans. The body was propped up with pillows; actors were sent for “by his own desire” to afford it some amusement; and priests and consuls were bidden to offer up their vows for the life of the dead. Giving out that the Emperor was getting better, Agrippina took care to keep Britannicus and his two sisters, Octavia and Antonia, under her own immediate eye. As though overwhelmed with sorrow she wept, and embraced them, and above all kept Britannicus by her side, kissing him with the exclamation “that he was the very image of his father,” and taking care that he should on no account leave her room. So the day wore on till it was the hour which the Chaldaeans declared would be the only lucky hour in that unlucky October day.
Noon came; the palace doors were suddenly thrown open: and Nero with Burrus at his side went out to the Praetorian cohort which was on guard. By the order of their commandant, they received him with cheers. A few only hesitated, looking round them and asking “Where was Britannicus?” Since, however, he was not to be seen, and no one stirred in his favour, they followed the multitude. Nero was carried in triumph to the camp, made the soldiers a short speech, and promised to each man of them a splendid donative. He was at once saluted Emperor. The Senate followed the choice of the soldiers, and the provinces made no demur. Divine honors were decreed to the murdered man, and preparations made for a funeral which was to rival in its splendour the one which Livia had ordered for Augustus. But the will—which beyond all doubt had provided for the succession of Britannicus—was quietly done away with, and its exact provisions were never known.
And on the first evening of his imperial power, Nero, well aware to whom he owed his throne, gave to the sentinel who came to ask him the pass for the night the grateful and significant watchword of “Optima Mater,”—“the best of mothers!”
NERO AND HIS TUTOR.
The imperial youth, whose destinies are now inextricably mingled with those of Seneca, was accompanied to the throne by the acclamations of the people. Wearied by the astuteness of an Augustus, the sullen wrath of a Tiberius, the mad ferocity of a Caius, the senile insensibility of a Claudius, they could not but welcome the succession of a bright and beautiful youth, whose fair hair floated over his shoulders, and whose features displayed the finest type of Roman beauty. There was nothing in his antecedents to give a sinister augury to his future development, and all classes alike dreamt of the advent of a golden age. We